In the interim, its owners are trying to create new mystique around the property that mingles its history with visions of quiet luxury in an otherwise bustling and noisy city.
It’s all aimed at attracting North American, Europeans and regional travellers who want luxury accommodations on their business jaunts through Kingston. Business travellers already form part of Terra Nova’s core market, but now the hotel is trying to keep them coming year-round.
Michelle Hussey, general manager of the 5.5-acre hotel, says Terra Nova’s history as a great house – once the home of the Blackwells – combined with modern amenities, including luxury add-ons, is enough leverage for new business – in addition to an international marketing campaign.
“The entire hotel is getting a facelift – without the knife,” Hussey quips.
The boutique hotel, which has been serving business travellers for 50 years, will also introduce the Regency Patisserie, offering desserts until midnight every day. Patisserie is a European term for a bakery that specialises in pastries and sweet delicacies, often under the guidance of a chef.
The upgrade also includes the redesign of all suites, as well as the addition of a new bar, called the Regency Bar and Lounge.
Hussey did not disclose the cost of the renovation but said the total effort, which is being funded fully by loans from First Global Bank and RBC Royal Bank, will grow the hotel’s asset value to US$20 million (J$2 billion). The upgrade will require the addition of about 20 staff to the current complement of 150, the GM said.
“People are asking why we do not add rooms,” said Hussey.
It’s because the owners feel that the existing property, which sports 46 suites, needs to remain well groomed.
“We decided to optimise on our assets,” said Hussey. “We are refurbishing our hotel so the guest suites are at a very high standard, ensuring that they retain that old-world charm with additional luxury elements”.
The Terra Nova experience will include Moulton Brown accessories, 100 per cent Egyptian cotton, six pillows of different textures, plush towels “all with our signature logo and a five-foot luggage rack,” said Hussey.
“Each suite will have a smart TV – 46-inch televisions with Internet – and an eight-foot wide workstation. We have additionally included walk-in cedar-lined closets,” she said.
Modern air conditioning has been added to all suites and carpeting has been replaced by tile, which is expected to keep rooms cooler and save on energy costs.
Any profit to be made is likely to come from the energy savings alone, Hussey said, as the hotel will otherwise be spending more on new employees for the bar and patisserie.
Surveillance cameras are now in all areas of the hotel, which features artwork that are family heirlooms.
The upholstery and furnishings have been changed to a signature gold and black. Rooms include Signature junior suites, two-room suites including living area, and luxury suites with balconies looking out to the Blue Mountains.
The Husseys acquired Terra Nova for US$4.5 million and injected another J$30 million of capital to upgrade it 12 years ago.
The hotel was formally owned by life insurance company Guardian Life, the local subsidiary of the Trinidadian conglomerate Guardian Holdings Limited. The hotel asset was handed to Guardian under its J$1.1-billion deal in May 1999 to acquire the individual life and pension portfolios of Jamaica Mutual Life Assurance Society, Dyoll Life and Crown Eagle.
Guardian Life leased the property to the Hussey family with an option to purchase. It then comprised 35 rooms.
Today, Terra Nova is one of the Husseys’ most visible assets, but the family also has substantial interests in sugar and rum – through Long Pond and Hampden sugar estates; pharmacies – Discount Centre and Liguanea Lane Pharmacy; laundry service – Super Cleaners; stud farming and racehorse training; and gaming.
A 10,000-square-foot gaming lounge called Monte Carlo is located at the hotel site at 17 Waterloo Road, but Hussey said while it is also owned by the family, the lounge is not part of Terra Nova’s business operations.
It is one of four gaming lounges owned by the family, the others being Crystal, and Vegas Gaming – the latter operates in both Kingston and Montego Bay, she said.
The new bar and lounge, Hussey states, will retain a Caribbean feel, while the new patisserie will feature the hotel’s storied pastry chef and chocolatiers, and serve cappuccinos, espressos and luxury teas as well.
According to the general manager, the hotel‘s primary income lines are its rooms, banqueting facilities and restaurants – all of which contribute one-third of revenue. The proportion, she states, is likely to remain the same after the upgrade, although it is expected that the marketing progamme will result in a 20 per cent improvement in annual sales.
“We hope all of this will have a positive impact on revenue. If we can achieve 20 per cent, we would be absolutely delighted,” Hussey said.
Nazma Chin, the property’s marketing consultant, said the hotel has a new website featuring a new booking platform, and that by year end, Terra Nova will have a presence on the major international travel sites, including Booking.com, Expedia and Travelocity.
Room rates currently range from a base of US$220 per night for the premium junior suite to US$420 per night for luxury suites, and all rates attract the relevant taxes and charges, said the marketing consultant.
The hotel has for years subsisted on a loyal core of returning guests, but now it is time to grow the base, she says.
“We have come full circle. There is unqualified value in the history of the property,” Hussey said.